9am. Thursday 7th July 2015. I was on my way to work.
That day, I was assisting on a fashion shoot in North London, so I needed to catch the Northern Line to Kings Cross and change to a different line. But just as I reached the barriers at London Bridge and pulled out my ticket, a staff member appeared with a board saying the underground was temporarily shut. The ticket machines all blipped to red. Out of action. There were audible gasps and sighs, a few expletives heard amongst the angry crowed gathering around me, and a sudden retreat to the exit to find a bus or taxi.
My boss was on a train heading into London Bridge – so I waited for her and we joined the ever-growing taxi queue outside. Rumours of a ‘power surge’ were working their way through the queue. But in the 30 minutes we were stood there, we heard the whole Underground network was out of action. We didn’t have any idea what had happened, but it felt wrong. It felt very wrong.
In true British spirit, everyone got on with it – and members of the public began organising the queue so we could team up if going to similar places. We joined two other girls – and as we climbed into the taxi and took our seats, we listened in to the radio playing loudly in the front. That’s when we first heard the word ‘bomb’. That’s when one of us in the taxi – I still don’t know who – gasped and started crying.
It was early and the phone networks weren’t yet busy (later that morning, it would be impossible to use our mobile phones) so I rang my mum and my now-husband to let them know something had happened and I was safe. They never had to worry – and although we had absolutely no idea what was happening yet, I would soon find out how many parents, boyfriends, siblings, and friends never got that phone call.
It could have been me. It could have been any of us. I was one of the lucky ones that day.
We eventually made it to the studio, diverting Kings Cross, which the radio told our driver was shut. We were oblivious to the terror and tragedy unfolding at that station as we made our way on congested roads.
Once we arrived, we got on with our work, while listening to the radio at full volume. Our makeup artist that day couldn’t get through to her sister; she did her job, but was silent with worry. I remember more crying when we heard about the bus; the moment when we realised this was no accident. Outside, ambulances, fire engines, and police cars zoomed past the studio with sirens at intervals of just minutes. At some point, it occurred to me that I’d need to get home that evening – but that seemed insignificant. I would walk across London if I had to.
And walk I did. It took me two hours, walking on pavements thick with crowds of Londoners making their way home on foot. I don’t remember any chatter. I do remember help being given to me readily whenever I stood on a street corner trying to make out the map I had hastily scribbled onto a bit of paper. There was a new camaraderie amongst Londoners, but also shock, terror, and determination.
I picked up an Evening Standard on my way past a seller and saw the first pictures of the bus at Tavistock Square. It took a while for my brain to register what I was seeing. Around me, people were waiting at bus stops. I decided to keep walking.
I made it back to my now-husband’s flat in South East London. My feet were sore and I felt numb with shock. But I was one of the lucky ones that day.
We sat watching the news in silence all evening. It was all too hard to believe that so many people had lost their lives. People just like me. People who were on their way to work. People who had run out of the door in a hurry, probably forgetting to kiss their loved ones goodbye. People who never got to make the phone call I got to make in the taxi that morning.
Finally, coverage came back to my mobile phone. Messages started arriving from worried friends. One friend had left several, before leaving a voicemail in tears. I spent a few minutes bashing text messages back to everyone, as sirens continued to scream outside. I didn’t know it yet, but I would hear sirens for weeks afterwards, even in my dreams.
An email pinged on my Blackberry. It was the Editor of the magazine I worked for, sharing words of support and telling us that the office would be open the next day and we were expected to be there. So the very next morning, I had to get over my fear and step onto an Underground train. I could hear my heart beating in my chest throughout that journey. I felt physically sick. But I felt determined too.
A week later, I visited Kings Cross and left flowers. I joined hundreds of other Londoners who knew, like me, how easily we could have been in the wrong place that morning.
I still think about the people who lost their lives on 7th July 2005. I see their faces in newspapers and Internet reports and I am taken straight back to that muggy July day. I think about the injured. I think about those that witnessed such tragedy. I think about the emergency services who helped them, who saw things they will never be able to forget. I think about the people who lost children, husbands, wives, parents, and friends that day. I think about the numbness, the shock, and the determination of Londoners on the street.
I know I was one of the lucky ones. It could have been me. It could have been any of us.
And we owe it to them to never, ever forget.